What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
Romeo and Juliet, Act II Scene II
Predictably, this principle is not widely embraced by the publishing industry. After all the title of a book sets the tone, hints at its genre and is the first opportunity to draw the reader in.
Word count: 390 Reading time 1-2 minutes
Some members of my Young Writers’ Club were surprised to learn that the author doesn’t always get to name his/her own work but the trend isn’t new. When F. Scott Fitzgerald submitted his novel Trimalchio in West Egg, to Charles Scribner’s Sons, the publishers hated the title. Only at the insistence of editor, Maxwell Perkins, did he change it to The Great Gatsby.
I’m thinking about this a lot lately because my first novel is in the structural editing stage. Once this is completed, I suspect I’ll be asked to offer alternative titles for it. I’m working on that list now and I’ve found several helpful sites:
- I might do what some famous writers have done and take my title from existing literature (examples from that page include: East of Eden, Of Human Bondage, Tender is the Night)
- If my novel were fantasy, I’d go here: Random Fantasy Title Generator. In fact I pushed the generator button several times just for the fun of it.
- I’ll consider Scott Berkun’s hints and keep my titles short, provocative, memorable, and easy and fast to say.
The main thing most sites seem to agree on is the need to create a number of alternatives to work through. Frankly I like Lockdown for my work-in-progress (wip). It’s short and evokes the dystopian theme of the novel. Maybe I can do better though so I’ve started a list and when the novel is ready for the final spit and polish, I’ll have a number of alternatives to offer Great Plains Publications. In the meantime, to quote Raymond Chandler in a letter to Alfred A. Knopf, “I’m trying to think of a good title for you to change.”
Whatever my novel is eventually called, I hope it will be a sweet read.
How do you arrive at the titles for your work? Have you picked a perfect one, only to have it changed? Are you making a list for your wip, or are you waiting until it’s finished for more inspiration?
Photo of Fragrant Rose Cloud from Wikimedia Commons